The Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas will soon bring in a Uniform Gas Price Policy to ensure parity in the price of imported and locally-produced gas.
"I have worked out the policy, but don't know whether it has to go to the Cabinet or not. The proposed policy will ensure one price for gas that is imported and that is produced here," Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas M Veerappa Moily said here this evening.
Imported gas currently costs high, he pointed out.
"The price depends on the country from where it is imported. In Qatar it is a little less [$18], other countries it is $21. Shale gas may work out very cheap. Now we are working towards parity [in price] between imported and domestic gas," Moily told newsmen.
India might achieve self-sufficiency in gas by 2016-17, he pointed out.
"May be in June, two MMSCMD [metric million standard cubic metres per day] gas of ONGC will be available here. In the meanwhile, we are clearing some of the projects...Clearing obstacles in the way to implementing the New Exploration Licensing Policy [NELP] projects will also help us ease out the situation," the minister said.
Referring to some 40 oil and gas blocks that haven't taken off, Moily noted, "They have been approved under the NELP. And the contractors, including our own PSUs, have taken them. But subsequently, defence, environment and some other departments raised some objection and wanted the No-Objection Certificate withdrawn. Nearly $13 billion has been invested in those projects."
"It will be very dangerous... Investors will be dissuaded. The 40 blocks are coming up before the Cabinet Committee on Investments on the 30th. It is left to the Cabinet to decide whether or not to clear them," he added.
Moily said his ministry has worked out the shale gas policy and it would come to the Union Cabinet any time.
On Coal Bed Methane (CBM), the minister said the policy evolved in 1997 was now being revised.
"The CBM policy is outdated and does not respond to the present needs for proper exploitation of the CBM gas. That policy is being revised. I had a meeting with Coal Minister and Coal Secretary. They have raised certain things and we have answered and they have to send some papers. No sooner they send the papers, we will finalise the policy."
He noted that potential for CBM was "plenty... Sky high".
"This is how the US is now confident... Walking towards self-reliance. Earlier they used to depend on the Gulf for oil, but now they are self-reliant. Even India has plenty of potential of shale gas, CBM gas and other petroleum products. But we need to march forward...Fast," he stressed.
Referring to the Rangarajan Committee report on gas pricing, the Union Minister said any hike or enhancement would not come for all those projects that have been running.
"It will come into prospective effect from 2014. But, it will at least be clear for all the investors and also the contractors as to what type of price structure has been built so that there will be certainty."
"That is under circulation before various ministries now. It will come back to us for comments and then it will be placed before the Cabinet, may be in the next one month," Moily said.
Replying to a question on the arbitration issue with Reliance Industries, the Minister remarked, "I am always in favour of making a settlement. Not at the cost of the government, but if it is equitable we can settle it. There is nothing like settlement.
"Many a time...They can ask for justice and go for arbitration. But what happens, to that extent investors' confidence will come down. We have not initiated any steps on that. It is before the arbitration. I only expressed my views that it is necessary to sort out everything so that nothing will be hindered in proceeding with the investments," he explained.
Asked specifically if the government was ready for arbitration, Moily observed, "We cannot sacrifice the interests of the government. National interest is more important."